Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Kirbuster Museum turns 30

Kirbuster Museum turns 30
12 July 2017

Kirbuster Museum, an historic farm steading dating from as early as 1595, is celebrating thirty years as a Council-run museum this weekend.

Kirbuster Museum turns 30.

Gifted to Orkney Islands Council in the 1980’s by the Argos family, the Museum is centred around the last un-restored example of a traditional ‘firehoose’ in Northern Europe – characterised by a central hearth, complete with peat fire, and a stone neuk bed reminiscent of the Neolithic interiors that can be seen at sites such as Skara Brae.

Enchanting for young and old alike, visitors can wander the old homestead which includes more modern features such as an Edwardian parlour, view a collection of farming memorabilia in the implement shed, enjoy a game of putting on the green, and explore the ‘Trowie Trail’ treasure hunt in the Victorian gardens. A Nursery Rhyme Hunt will also be running all day to encourage younger visitors to explore the house and grounds.

The birthday celebrations on Saturday 15 July will include a Teddy Bears’ Picnic in the gardens from 12:00 to 14:00 (bring your own lunch and teddy) followed by a commemorative tree planting at 14:00 and birthday cake. All welcome.

More information about Kirbuster Museum

The name Kirbuster comes from the Old Norse kirkju-bolstadr (kirk farm settlement) - kirk (church) + bister or buster (farm). The related church is believed to have been situated quite near the present group of buildings – on the bank of the Kirbuster Burn is a mound said to mark the site of an old kirk or chapel. Kirbuster first appears as a farm rental in 1595, when it had a value of “1 barrel butter, 9 pultrie”.

The last people to live at Kirbuster were three members of the Hay family, whose grandparents had moved to Birsay from Orphir in 1847. Brothers Charlie and Willie Hay spent their entire lives at Kirbuster until 1961, when Charlie died in March of that year, aged 86, followed by Willie in May, aged 83. When they died, their widowed sister Maggie (Mrs Margaret Anderson) resided there until 1963 when she went into residential care.

During this period, the land was inherited by their nephew, John George Borwick of Durkadale, who then sold it to George Argo, who took the decision to preserve the old house, complete with a firehoose that contains an historic central hearth. He built a brand new house and steading across from the museum – now the working farm.

George Argo enjoyed giving people tours of Kirbuster until his death in 1982, and this tradition was continued for some time by Iris Grieve and family, whose husband, George, was farm manager for the Argo family and stayed just across the road from the old house. The Argo family very kindly donated the property to Orkney Islands Council, who opened a museum on the site in 1987. A stone plaque in memory of George Argo is prominently displayed on the end wall of the house.